The Tracking Academy is another division of SACT’s philanthropic endeavors that is based upon teaching one of our most indigenous art forms, the tracking of animals in the wild. The Tracker Academy was the realization of a long-held dream for game ranger Alex van den Heever, who first identified the need for such a school when he started working as a game ranger in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in 1995. ‘My greatest gift was being assigned Renias Mhlongo as my tracking partner,’ recalls Alex.
‘For his knowledge – spanning some 27 years – was a profound discovery for me and I was shocked when I realized that there was no formal educational qualification that could impart these critical tracking skills to a new generation.’ Nor was there a system that recognized how tracking impacts positively on conservation and on the preservation of our wildlife and wilderness spaces. Until, Alex’s passion caught the attention of philanthropist Gaynor Rupert, whose foresight in all matters of conservation and empowerment brought Alex’s dream to life.
Today The Tracker Academy trains unemployed community members in the traditional skills of tracking by way of a fully sponsored course that produces students who find employment in the eco-tourism, anti-poaching and animal monitoring industries – essential areas in the preservation of Africa’s wildlife. On a recent trip to the Kalahari, we were very proud to have the expertise of Africa’s first fully qualified female tracker, Kelathilwe Malaki, to guide us.